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Steve Hackett - Beyond The Shrouded Horizon CD (album) cover

BEYOND THE SHROUDED HORIZON

Steve Hackett

 

Eclectic Prog

3.85 | 322 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

wilmon91
3 stars Hackett continues to merge all kinds of sounds, acoustic and electronic. Orchestral elements are present in almost all songs, particularly strings backing up. The sound of the drums varies more than ususal which is welcome, but too often it's very processed and muffled in character.

All songs have a big ambiance with lots of reverb, and the half- time drum groove is extensively used, which become a bit too much of the same thing. The style and atmosphere has ingredients of new-age, symphonic rock and fusion.

Although there is a lot of changes happening sound and stylewise, the music progresses forward very smoothly. The reason I think is the strings in the background, or other noises that binds everything together , and the the reverb smooths the edges of everything. Another thing might be modern production technology which keeps the sound frictionless. The album would need elements of the opposite.

There are many romantic sides of Hackett, and this time the overall mood is not as much "halloween" as on Wild Orchids, but parts of it instead has an atmosphere similar to " A Midsummer Night's Dream", with a major-key oriented classical feel, represented by some acoustic solo pieces and some orchestral sections in the songs. I like it.

There's more exploration of exotic, ethnic sounds, but it's not overdone. Some middle eastern touches, some indian touches, and a bit of bagpipe.

Out Of the Tunnel's Mouth was largely disappointing, and I wasn't sure of what to expect from this album. But it is definitely better and has a few great songs, which is satisfying.

CD1

1. Loch Lomond (6:49)

The first song is a varied piece with a slow and powerful rock riff. It recalls Cell 151 with the 16th-note driven bass part. The heavily effect-treated drums sound muffled. The main verse is entirely different in key and style, softer with acoustic guitar and singing. It has partly the same chord sequence as Sleepers (from the previous album). There are many diverse parts that are not too interesting and are too unrelated. It is somewhat entertaining anyhow.

2. The Phoenix flown (2:08)

The previous track continues into this one with the same tempo and drum groove. Big sound, guitar alternately playing melody and soloing over two chords. It's just a theme without any construction around it. It would have needed some context.

3. Wanderlust (0:44)

A nice, short acoustic guitar piece in free tempo. It works like an intro to the next song.

4. Til these eyes (2:41)

Mellow tune with acoustic guitar . Somewhat folky with a few verses, each concluded with the refrain"til these eyes...". A nice form that "Golden Age of Steam" also had. A characterizing element is the guitar picking method. Just to name a reference, "Julia" by Beatles also has it, and two other nice songs are "God if I saw Her Now" by Anthony Phillips, and "Jenny Gwen" , Paul McCartney. The guitar and singing is backed up by symphonic arrangement. A pretty nice song.

5. Prairie angel (2:59)

Half-tempo drum groove, simple guitar melody over three not unfamiliar chords. Big anthem-like style. It then switches radically to a blues rock n roll -riff which bridges over to the next song. The bluesrock part feels out of place.

6. A Place called Freedom (5:56)

The first theme of Prairie Angel returns, but softer with vocals. I come to think of "From Now On", the verse of the Supertramp song - similar in chords and vocal melody. It is okay, but the positive energy in the major key harmonies , the singing coupled with the big spacey sound, becomes a little too new-agey.

7. Between the sunset and the coconut palms

This was a "wow" experience for me on the first listening of the album. But it's very simple with a verse and chorus that complement each other nicely. The vocals in the verse are several vocal parts put together forming harmonies. The only rythm sound is a gentle drumming on the acoustic guitar. At the chorus the sound becomes larger with largely major key harmonies. It has some resemblance to the verse of "Silent Sun" from Genesis first album. The song is rounded off by the chorus theme played instrumentally by orchestral strings and piano in rich harmonic arrangement - it's character reminds me of the orchestral album "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Great!

8. Waking to life (4:49)

This is a cool song. Indian influences with percussion and sitar. Nice singing by Jo Lehmann. There's a drum machine sound and groove, similar to Equality by Howard Jones. I really like the song during the vocal parts. But it changes direction after a while.. Electric guitar breaks in and after a while there are "Please Don't Touch" harmonies. So the song gets a bit sidetracked, but it's still one of the albums highlights.

9. Two faces of Cairo (5:13)

Instrumental song starting very tranquil with a spacy middle-eastern ambience, then slowly increasing the dynamics with a fast half-tempo rythm in triplet feeling (similar to a groove in Genesis "Duke's Travels") . Booming tom-toms backing up the orchestral string melody and electric guitar soloing. The synth string pads help giving the song a more new-age-fusion feeling rather than world music. But it's pretty nice. There are interesting production elements with cool sounds enriching the song.

10. Looking for fantasy (4:32)

I love this kind of Hackett song. Very easy to like at first listen, and flows with ease from start to finish. Like " Between the sunset", the verse and chorus fits perfect together. It starts with a mellotron intro in 3/4, with a classical feel, a little Händel-ish and then goes into 4/4 , soft verse with acoustic guitar and vocals, cello I guess, and additional sounds such as backwards guitar noises. The chorus is catchy in its own way. The vocal phrase 'She's only looking for fantasy' is sung with rich vocal parts, like a choir. The effects-processeced drums have a special character and mixed so low that you barely notice it - but it fits the song well. The key of the song feels low. Hackett sings in a low register, and the tempo is slow and gentle - it almost feels slowed down, as when you play a 45 rpm vinyl in 33 rpm, which creates a soft laid back feeling. There is a middle interlude with solo acoustic guitar, another passage reminiscent of the romantic flair of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Very nice!

11. Summer's breath (1:12)

Solo acoustic guitar in a spacy ambiance. Three different successive tempos and finishes with a cool arpeggio, which unfortunately only rings for a second before the next song starts. Very nice , but short.

12. Catwalk (5:44)

12/8 blues-rock with Simon Phillips on drums. Not the sound I associate with Phillips . Mixed in the same way as the first track on the album. It takes away it's natural sound, not to mention all the ghost notes. Hackett is probably aiming for a rougher sound , to avoid slickness, but it is in my opinion a little too muffled and spacious. The song as a whole doesn't bring anything special or new.

13 Turn this island earth (11:50)

The longest song of the album contains several phases, and a wealth of electronical and acoustic sounds and effects. It feels like two parts, the first one being 7 minutes, the other 4.

It begins with an intro in free tempo, a dark dramatic mood, string instruments in lower register and some acoustic guitar arpeggios. Spacy electronic sounds emerges, then processed vocals starts ? the first verse. Bass and drums are added in a nice short instrumental theme with a half-time drum groove, orchestral bass and a melody played by glockenspiel among other instruments.

The verse returns. The all too familiar descending bass line that was used in "Sleepers" from his previous album is used, and the chords follows it in equally predictable manner.

The song goes into an intense rock section with fast drumming by Phillips. There is a nice detail - the melody of the riff is the melody that is played in the earlier section between the two verses. It took me a lot of time before I recognized that. The drums are compressed/gated in a weird way that sounds messy.

Then follows many varied parts concluded by some playfulness by sampled orchestral instruments. Not very interesting.

At 7 minutes there is silence. From this point the song is much better. An atmospherical part in 3/4 begins , similar to "The Toast" (from Defector) and then goes into a cool swingy part in a laid back half-time groove with brushes on the drums and harpsichord. So nice, but it's only a short passage before moving on to more orchestral playfulness, ending with a boom. The last minute is very spacy and swirly, a weightless feeling.

As a whole , few of the parts are very interesting or captivating but it is entertaining to listen to. New things can be discovered with each listen.

CD2:

1. Four Winds: North (1:34)

Short piece somewhat like "Blue Child" from Wild Orchids, but weaker. The descending bassline from "turn this Island" (and others) is here again but in major key harmonies. Bad drum sound. Bad.

2. Four Winds: South (2:06)

Mellow improvisational romantic stuff , flurries of notes with piano and acoustic guitar. Very sketchy.

3. Four Winds: East (3:34)

Bluesy lounge-music in minor key. Guitar soloing over organ chords and a percussion rhythm loop. The guitar expression reminds me of the Guitar Noir album.

4. Four Winds: West (3:04)

A classical piece for solo guitar. It is brilliant!

5. Pieds Em L'air (2:26)

Slow waltz with strings, slightly loungy. Sampled strings with an atmospheric character. The harmonies are somewhat banal. But there are some nice moments with inspiring jazz chords.

6. She Said Maybe (4:21)

This is one of the best songs on the album including both cd's. It's instrumental sort of rock-fusion with varying parts and nice harmonies, very well composed! Largely written by Roger King. Stylewise it could perhaps be compared to Steve Morse.

7. Enter The Night (3:59)

This is a remake of "Shadow of the Colossus", now with vocals added I have often thought that it would have been fitting to play on some big sports event, like a football game, to set the mood. In this version the vocals has a reverb with an arena-like character, so it really sounds as if played in such a setting. This version is a big improvement over the previous one , and the whole atmosphere has a strong 80's vibe - very fun! The only thing I'm sceptical about is that arena-reverb, which puts the song into a specific sound environment, making the experience less direct.

8. Eruption Tommy (3:37)

A cover of a Focus song, and feels like a tribute to them. Very true to the original, but Hackett's version sounds a little smoother and more loungy.

9. Reconditioned Nightmare (4:06)

This is a re-recorded version of the original. Nothing is changed. The original is better.

wilmon91 | 3/5 |

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